ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v Australia, World Cup 2011, 2nd quarter-final, Ahmedabad
Johnson to target Sehwag with short delivery
March 22, 2011
As that great innovative thinker Homer Simpson once said when faced with a difficult problem, "I've been working on a plan: I'll hide under some coats and hope that somehow everything will work out". That's pretty much how a fast bowler must feel when Virender Sehwag is in his stride. But no pile of coats could offer that level of escapism, nor shield a man from the roars of an Indian home crowd.
Fast bowlers will tell you they don't get frightened. The biggest, meanest men in the side, it is their job to inflict pain, not suffer it. But Sehwag can send the world's toughest and quickest into the foetal position, as he almost did to Morne Morkel in Nagpur last week. It's something of a paradox, therefore, that the man who has handled Sehwag as well as anyone in recent years is Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson is quick and awkward, but can be more fragile than your average fast bowler - belt him a few times and you can almost sense him searching for a suitable stack of coats to crawl under. But somehow, his style has worked against Sehwag. Perhaps it's Johnson's unpredictability that has been the undoing of Sehwag; a couple of loose balls might be dispatched, but followed by another attempted boundary from one that is too close to cut, or so accurate that it should be respected.
Whatever the case, in the past five years, no bowler has dismissed Sehwag more often across all formats than Johnson, who has claimed his wicket nine times from 18 games. That's a trend Johnson wants to continue in Ahmedabad on Thursday, and he believes the best way to attack Sehwag is to bowl at his body.
"I don't mind bowling up into his rib-cage to be honest," Johnson said. "He seems to struggle with that a bit. I guess [also] putting pressure on him, if he gets a single it puts pressure on the batsman at the other end. That's one way we thought about it as well. It's always a good challenge to bowl to someone like that, he doesn't really use his feet but he can hit the ball hard. It will be a pretty good start to the game if we can get him early.
"In the bowlers' meeting I asked the question how many times he has scored four from the first ball. He likes to get scoring quickly. He's a dangerous player and we'll be looking to get him as quickly as we can. We'll stick to our plans and stick to what we know best of what works against him."
The Australians do seem to have worked Sehwag out better than most sides. His one-day average against Australia is 22.65, notably worse than it is against any other nation, excluding Associates, and it's ten innings since he has made a limited-overs fifty against them.
Getting rid of Sehwag early would be the perfect start for Australia, given that he is India's leading run scorer in this World Cup. That's partially due to his 175 against Bangladesh, an innings that ensured the tournament opened with a bang. Since then, India have looked to Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored two centuries, and Yuvraj Singh, who has been a consistent threat.
But the Australians know that, as formidable as India's batting line-up is, there is always the possibility of a collapse. Against South Africa, India lost their last nine wickets for 29 runs; against England they lost their their last seven for 33; and against West Indies their last seven were skittled for 50. It's a trend that Johnson finds encouraging.
"If we can get two or three of their big guns early on it changes the way they think about their game. It's something we've spoken about and we'll work hard to try and do it. You always target their best players and Sehwag and Tendulkar are their best players, so we think it can change the way they think."
But finding a way through the batting order of Sehwag, Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj is easier said than done. It will be the biggest challenge yet for Australia's attack, which the selectors always intended to be a wicket-taking group, and the offspinner Jason Krejza will also need to work out how to control the world's best players of spin.
"As a bowling unit we feel pretty confident, us three quicks going together, we always look forward to bowling over 140kph and swinging the ball," Johnson said. "There's been talk about the wicket, Sehwag said it will be slow and a bit of a turner, but we have our spinners, Krejza can spin the ball a fair way. It's leading up to be a very good game and we're looking forward to it."
And if Australia's best-laid plans don't work, and they can't find any coats in the Ahmedabad heat, they might have to resort to another of Homer's problem-solving strategies: "I'm not normally a praying man but if you're up there please save me, Superman."
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Slow left-arm spinners generally do well in T20s, plus he can also bat a bit. Then why doesn't he stop runs, take many wickets, or bat quicker in the IPL?